US Open: Day 1 Preview
Published August 30, 2009 09:05
NEW YORK, NY, USA - If they can make it here, they can make it anywhere. But who will get their 2009 US Open title campaigns off to a flying start as the bottom half of the draw is unleashed on Monday?
Viktoriya Kutuzova (UKR) vs. [WC] Kim Clijsters (BEL)
If Clijsters ever thought, or secretly hoped, she'd be able to ease her way back into the big time she was very much mistaken. For here she is, front and center, stealing the limelight in the best tradition of Broadway, in the very first match on the main stadium. And, quite right, too. Aside from the fact that Flushing Meadows was the scene of her finest hour when she lifted the US Open trophy in 2005, the 26-year-old has already proven with her seed-killing runs at Cincinnati and Toronto she has no intention on living on past glories. Kutuzova, 21, did a good job of qualifying for Wimbledon in June (as it happens, she handed Clijsters a walkover there in the second round in 2006) but she hasn't won consecutive single matches since, and the circumstances are unlikely to work in her favor today.
[WC] Alexa Glatch (USA) vs.  Serena Williams (USA)
Williams leads, 1-0
Glatch is still only 19, but she is making her fourth US Open appearance as a wildcard, and also has a successful push through qualifying under her belt. Still looking to crack the Top 100, the Californian drew attention to her potential with a fine Fed Cup effort against the Czechs in April, helping earn the US a berth in the competition's final. Unfortunately, this may not be the day to talk about her as as pretender to the American tennis throne - not when she's up against the undisputed queen. True, Serena hasn't exactly overachieved during the Olympus US Open Series, but she famously has the knack of getting her mojo back in time for the majors. She probably won't derive much pleasure from a win over her young compatriot, but after all the talk, she'll know it's time to walk the walk.
 Victoria Azarenka (BLR) vs. Alexandra Dulgheru (ROU)
Belarusian bombshell Azarenka began the season in the best possible style, claiming her first title at Brisbane and another at Memphis before upping the stakes at Miami. There, she defeated Serena in the most stacked draw outside a Grand Slam to confirm her place in the Top 10. But, while the 20-year-old is still there, it's fair to say she's gone off the boil a little in recent months. Having gone 23-2 through Miami, she is 16-8 since, and is no doubt keen to lift her act again. For her part, Dulgheru proved her nerve when, as a qualifier ranked No.201 in the world and making her main draw Tour debut, she cut a swathe through the field to capture the Premier-level Warsaw Open in May. The 20-year-old Romanian has otherwise found the Tour tough going, but this is her first Grand Slam, and she'll want to prove she's no flash in the pan.
 Amélie Mauresmo (FRA) vs. Tatjana Malek (GER)
Broadly speaking Mauresmo has had a good season, certainly better than the last two. And with her win over Svetlana Kuznetsova at New Haven last week, the 30-year-old Frenchwoman showed she can still take her sublime talent to the best. At least some of the time. As her follow-up loss to an admittedly in-form Elena Vesnina in the semis reminded, Mauresmo loses more to lesser-credentialed players than she used to, and today she's up against a young player whose career has gone up a notch lately after six months out with illness in 2008. Safely back in the Top 100 Malek, 22, won the ITF Circuit event in the Bronx last week, which means she has acclimatized nicely to life in the Big Apple. Whether she'll be comfortable enough to beat a two-time Grand Slam champion on Louis Armstrong is another matter.
More to watch…
Third seed Venus Williams opens proceedings on the first night session on Arthur Ashe, where she faces recent Istanbul titlist Vera Dushevina. Also in the evening, on Louis Armstrong, America's Meghann Shaughnessy takes the next step in her comeback from knee injury, against No.22 seed Daniela Hantuchova. Other seeds in action include No.7 Vera Zvonareva, who plays Spanish doubles star Nuria Llagostera Vives on the Grandstand, and new top tenner Flavia Pennetta, who faces Edina Gallovits of Romania on the same court. Americans in action include Bethanie Mattek-Sands, 18-year-old wild card Gail Brodsky, as well as Jill Craybas and Carly Gullickson - who play each other.